Ground squirrels: just one of the signs of spring
Afternoons in the 60s, fruit trees beginning to bud and light rain showers all hail the coming of spring, and we got ’em right now. These false signs are all precursors to a few days of freezing temps, or a sudden and heavy snowstorm. Never have my tulips managed to finish blooming without becoming sno-cones.
What happens next is a period of not-so-bad weather but too wet to do the annual grass cut-down stuff — that chore won’t happen until the weeds are at least 3 feet tall. When the time comes to start trimming things up, we enter the phase of another spring ritual, string pullin’. We have been blessed with all these labor-saving devices that cut, mow and whack various species of vegetation. All of them (at least the ones that do the job) are powered by a small gasoline motor.
These miraculous machines work best when they are in continuous use. They are notoriously stubborn after having sat for a winter and asked to start up again. Even when they have been put away properly with the gas drained and run out. One never knows if a mower is going to start right up or provide an unlooked-for arm exercise.
The owner’s manual gives very specific instructions on how to start these little beasts up. The instructions usually work after modifying them from experience. Sometimes one has to pull the spark plug out, clean it, say a little prayer and try again multiple times. As a last resort there is also something called quick start, which works to supply memory to the machine about running again.
But if this little thing called a primer bulb has a crack in it, you can pull the string until your arm falls off or place a quarter stick of dynamite under it and buy a goat. But then you have the job of owning a goat. The common wisdom about goats eating anything is not true; there are at least two or three things they won’t eat. The real problem with these critters is they are smart. Just smart enough to drive their owners crazy.
This friend of mine owned an apple orchard by Sebastopol and I was returning home after giving him a hand with the spring chores. Just down the road there was a little farmhouse with a brand new Cadillac in the driveway. The car was painted a beautiful burgundy and still had the dealer sticker on the window. Standing atop the beautiful car was a goat; coming out the front door was a man with a rifle in his hand.
Last year about this time I noticed a couple of ground squirrel holes. One of them was going under the foundation of my work shed. I took appropriate action with a ground squirrel last supper and assumed that the job was done. This year I realized that I had a ground squirrel metropolis. The mounds and holes are everywhere and I guess that next year will bring even more.
Pete Dryer had the same problem around his store in Twain. He began by setting live traps for the little critters and driving up the mountain to let them go. As time went by, he realized that the problem wasn’t getting even a little bit better. Finally he began to put a dab of red paint on the rodents before letting them go.
Within days he had a whole collection of ground squirrels sporting red paint. The only solution he could come up with was stalking the pests with his pellet gun. While this proved to be effective, the time involved is huge. Personally I would like to come up with a plan that is more time-friendly and wide-spreading. I’ll let you know when I find one.